Month: December 2017

Life is a Game, Play it!

Life is a Game, Play it!

Sci Fi story published in Science Reporter

I have never been this happy in my life.  Doing things I always wanted to. There was a time in a past when the going was not this good.  I even forget how far this was in the past and what had it been that had bothered me. Then, I used to drive cars down below, on those crowded, jam-packed roads where it was difficult to even breathe, leave alone travel.  Up in the sky it’s cool, very cool.  And I don’t drive a private jet, it’s a Sea Hawk I drive at sounds that boom and speeds that zoom.

Up in the sky, ‘the being with you spirit’ had helped me with another milestone; I connected to the state of happiness more easily and readily than ever.  Happiness had been eluding me since I don’t know when but there, up in the sky and in my Sea Hawk, I finally connected.  I could feel its intensity, and was drenched in it!  But then, you won’t understand that exhilarating feeling through words.  It has to be felt.

I have been flying for over three hours now.  No territory is beyond my reach, nothing I can’t come to within inches of feeling.  I can fly over deserts, perch atop a mountain, graze over the sea waves, dive deep into gullies and come up within inches of hitting the ground, then soar up in space.  To explore the outer limits of stratosphere.  This freedom, this speed and this access, I know only a few people have.  Danger excites me, new lands thrill me and I fly past the globe every evening like a wanderer.

It’s time to return and in the next half an hour I fly down the tarmac of the private airstrip I own.  My Sea Hawk lands softly, something that comes only with skill and taxies down to a halt.

I spot her in her sky blue dress, her golden hair blowing in the windswept strip.  She looks striking, the next most beautiful thing after my aircraft.  She is always there to receive me at the airstrip.  She accompanied me once, but my maneuvers overwhelmed her and she didn’t have the heart to climb the aircraft a second time!  She waited at the strip because she was anxious, for my safety and well-being.  Her extreme devotion touched me.

Today, she looked exceptional because of the evening light that fell on her face in a curious way.  The golden haze accentuated her features and her figure stood out.  I swallowed the lump in my throat.  I too loved her, just as she loved me.

She rushed to me and gave me a hug.

“Thanks for avoiding your last minute acrobats,” she smiled.

And we walked into the sunset, towards my waiting Ferrari.  I opened the door for her and got into the driver’s seat.  For once, I was not in a mood to zip but instead I cruised on the long empty road.  She put her favourite song on the disk which was also my favourite and we drove all night.

My passion of kissing the skies on my Sea Hawk and being with the woman I loved.  This sprinkled with the joys of racing my favourite Ferrari, feeling the essence of happiness that eluded most people and eating in the best of the restaurants filled my cup of joy.  I had all objects of desire and it was as if the world was at my feet!  What else could anyone want out of life?  What else?  Because there was nothing else to achieve beyond what I had!

I lost count of the years that went by.  Then George came along, my blue-eyed child prodigy who could beat the world’s chess champions at 7.  He could do the most difficult calculations in less than 30 seconds and his name kept flashing regularly in newspapers, magazines and television.  The world envied us for what we were – I was a much decorated Pilot with several gallantry awards which I received by carrying out dangerous, lifesaving assignments and Sarah was a 5 times Oscar winning actress.  And my son, the newspaper claimed would one day get the Nobel prize in mathematics! What else could anyone want out of life?  What else?

Then it happened one day.

I was rushing headlong into the long dead volcano and staring death in the face as the earth rushed in to meet me.  I was testing the limits of thrill and excitement I could engage myself.  I tensed, ready with the controls to pull the planes at the last possible minute and inches away from danger.  That was what excited me, the play with danger.  Adrenalin quickened my heartbeat to a new threshold.

“Now!” I muttered to myself.  “Now!”

But then the lights went out.  I knew I hadn’t hit the ground, not yet, because the ground was still far away and there was no way the light could have gone out, except for an eclipse.  But they had, and I had not hit the ground.  This was surprising because in the fractions of the seconds that elapsed, I should have, but didn’t.  I was safe, without a hit, in the darkness.  No sound of the engine plane.  No crash.  No vibrations.  Just an eerie quiet.  And an opaque blackness.

Time ticked away in my mind.  Few seconds, minutes and then a long time.  I tried to move but I was stuck fast on the seat.  I reached out for the belts and released them.  Where was I?  Where was this?  The plane couldn’t be mid air and for so long.  I had been hurtling downwards and had been less than a 100 feet away.  What was happening?

Free, I thrashed my hands around, tried to smash the screen.  There was no screen!  I tried again.  No way.  I gripped the handles they were there, but the screen was missing where it should have been.  I brought my hands close to my eyes and felt my helmet.  Suddenly I felt claustrophobic.  Quickly, I pulled off the helmet.  Bright light hit my eyes and I was blinded by it!  I realized there was no plane!  I was in a room, a very quiet room with many gadgets.  Where was this?

Slowly the rods and cones in my eyes adjusted to light.  Still the light hurt, even though it wasn’t intense.  That only meant I hadn’t been exposed to light for a long time.  I looked at the helmet I was holding and it was connected with wires and wires and wires!  My gaze followed the sinewy wires that slithered to the floor, just like snakes.  They led to a console placed on a recessed portion of the room. I moved about in the room which had been built deliberately to give a dimensionless feel.  Where was I?  Was I in some kind of a prison?

My heart was beating fast because I was suddenly afraid.  Looking again at the helmet, I realized the helmet screen was not transparent and what I thought of to be a helmet was not a helmet but a shield.  Or was it a gear?

Looking around I saw just walls and drips.  I followed the drips and realized they were attached to me.  Someone was nourishing me, while I imagined I was flying, so the illusion didn’t fade away or break.  I looked at the console and it was simply playing noise.  Then, it blanked out.

Without knowing why, I reached out for a button and then adjusted certain settings on the console.  The screen came alive with my picture of flying.  Instinctively, I walked back to my helmet and wore it.  The same feeling of flying the aircraft engrossed me!  I began to enjoy my dream.  Then, quickly, to fade the illusion, I removed the helmet.

Present reality stared at me as the invented reality faded away.  I was living in a dream world and the virtual machine with the drips was sustaining it!  I pulled off the drips and looked around.  If these drip sets were real, then there must be people who were attending to me.  For the first time, the thought of escaping from captivity occurred to me.  I looked around and saw a door and walked out of it.

It didn’t open into space, it opened into another room.  Immediately, I was struck with the likeness it had with the house of my dreams.  Identical, including the small crack in the tile just near the door.  So this was where they moved me when I arrived home!  What I felt gave me goose bumps.

I moved into another room and saw my wife!  She too was sitting on a console, wearing a helmet.  She was smiling, a beautiful smile no doubt but it appeared stupid and empty to me.  Poor girl, she was fooling herself with happiness in that make-believe world!

“Sarah!”  I called her name.  Was it real? More important, was she my wife?

“John!  I love you.  You are so handsome!  But I wish you were more careful about flying,” she said.  I thought it was a reply but she was responding to a stimulus given to her in the world she was living.  She hadn’t heard me.

“Sarah!”  I tried to jolt her.

“Thanks John.  I feel tired, let’s retire early tonight.”

She didn’t respond.  I shouted, screamed, gave her nudges, and slapped her on the shoulder.  Nothing!  She was in a deep trance, coma, anesthesia or whatever anyone may call it.  She was cut off from my world.  We were in the same room but existed in different dimensions.  As if I were dead for her.  She continued to relive her virtual world experiences.

Then, the elaborate consol on which she was sitting, complete with the drips attached to her body, began to move noiselessly.  It moved to another room.  This was the bedroom of the world in which Sarah and John (yes that was me, but really?) existed, but one that didn’t belong jointly to us anymore.

I was in for another shock!  I saw George, my child prodigy, sitting on another console, his expression intense!

Suddenly, for no reason, tears trickled down my cheeks as my ideal world of perfect happiness crashed like a house of cards.  It was a fake.  George was no prodigy, not in the real world.  It was a make-believe hypothesis.  He was ordinary but I thought him to be extraordinary.  The complete and callous deception made me angry.

“George, wake up!  They’re fooling you!”

“That’s Sin2a!”  He replied triumphantly.  The same on-top-of the world expression reflecting on my face that made me proud on him now looked contorted and full of conceit because it was for something he didn’t have!

I tried to search for a way to switch off the madness but couldn’t find the switches.  I tried to pull out wires but they were strong. For the next hour all my attempts to shatter their illusion failed miserably.  They laughed together, interacted with me and each other but they didn’t know anything, didn’t know the big joke that was being played on them.

Sick, hurt and wiping away my tears, I stomped out of the room, unable to bear their pathetic plights.  Moving through corridors and doors, I came across a staircase.  I began to climb.  The climb was steep and the steps were high.  Thick metal layers began to show as I climbed higher and higher.  I was panting now and took rest.  Then I resumed my climb again.  Beads of sweat began to form on my head.  The heat was unbearable now.  It took me an hour of effort to reach the top.

A door confronted me.  I opened it and my jaw dropped.  Outside the destruction was horrifying.  There were skeletons laughing at me with their dropped open jaws.  A huge Sea Hawk lay with its fuselage broken into two and no wings.  The sunset was uncanny in that no man’s land.  Buses, cars and buildings were distorted, mutilated and pitted.  The house where I stood, my house was charred.  I walked through huddled skeletons and moved into the silence lingering in the interiors of that house.  My wife, my son and me we were surviving in the deep basement we had built as a precaution a long time ago.

I saw a huge photograph of John, me!  I was receiving a prize for developing virtual war simulations for the US Army from the president of America!  Then I saw more magazines and curious I read through them, my head began to spin as the contents connected me to a past I had long since forgotten.  It came alive, with one word – Nuclear.

I saw the miraculously preserved wood of the bed I was sitting on.   Reluctantly, I went back to the stairs from which I had climbed.  I closed the door securely behind me.  I couldn’t risk intrusions from desperadoes.

When the door shut behind me, I couldn’t contain my tears.

Going down had been much easier than coming up, just as it had been for mankind.  One war had brought all glory and progress to this!  In which, the world lay twisted and destroyed above, by a few nuclear bombs!

When I reached down, the team was there, waiting for me.

“So that was a time-out,” I stared at my subordinates, albeit sheepishly.  “My window to reality, just incase things improved.”

“Now what, Sir?”  A spectacled techie with long hair asked me, nervously.

“We have enough funds?”

“No worry about that,” the financial expert smiled.

“Why is this place so vulnerable?  Anyone can walk through that door.”

“It’s impregnable.  You could go out because it was a time-out.  Your setting enabled you to walk out.  No one can get in.  The 2 feet thick steel door padded with lead can’t be compromised even by a bomb.”

“OK,” I conceded, as I went back to my console and sat on the chair, thinking.

“What are your orders, sir?”

“Let me think.  Give me an hour please!”

In that hour, I didn’t shout at my wife and kid.  The kid was a prodigy.  I remembered it when the effects of the selective amnesia causing drug weaned off.  In fact, he was on an intensive learning course I had designed for him with my virtual gaming skills.

I watched my wife too through tears that were hot and salty.  They tasted just the same, the way they had millions of years ago, since human beings.  But mankind had changed the planet beyond redemption.  One had just to step outside this shelter, an oasis in ruins, to discover the destructive potential of humans.

An hour later, the team strapped back all the paraphernalia I had dismantled.

“How long after do you want the time-out to be set this time, sir?”

“3 years from now.”  I had already reset the time-outs for Sarah and George.  No point in causing distress to them, his had been enough!

When they injected the anesthesia again, I remembered the bright orange landscape littered with skeletons and the twisted man-made creation once again before it began to fade.  Then it was dark and I felt going down a tunnel.

Then there was bright sunshine!

I regained my bearings again.  The plane was diving lower and lower.  I pulled at the controls with all the force in me.  At the last minute, the aircraft tilted its angle and once again I began to soar in the sky.  I took a deep breath.

“Whew, that was close!” I muttered.  “Damn close!  Almost hit the ground this time!”

And I exulted, and smiled at the blue skies and the green earth below.

A perfect world.  A perfect life.  What more could I ask?

Transformation

Transformation

Sci Fi story published in Science Reporter

“And now we come to the most peculiar part of the twenty first century metropolitan human beings – the heart,” professor sykrishnan.edu smiled as he zoomed on his favourite topic.

suruchi.stu adjusted the knob in her head gear to get a clearer sound.  She also fine-tuned the colours on the video screen she wore on her wrist, the lecture was downloading in the e-pod.

“Myths galore surrounded the heart.  It was known as the seat of conscience, the abode of God, the centre for emotions and creativity.  But scientists maintained it was just a pump, to send a supply of blood to different organs,” sykrishnan.edu looked around.  The helmets bobbed with interest.  He had the attention of the classroom.  He pressed a button and the space between him and the students lit up with the 3D holographic image of the human heart.

“Reverred before, extinct now.  Biotechnology gifted human beings with the nano heart at the end of the 21 century and later developments replaced blood with plasma and then with xytelol, a synthetic chemical.  In one stroke we removed all the complications of human beings associated with blood and the heart.  Most bacterial and viral diseases were eliminated and the span of life jumped from 80 to 500 years abruptly.  More mutations caused by in house genetic experimenting eliminated the vital step in cell differentiation that formed the heart.”

A hand went up.

sykrishnan.edu liked interruptions.  They stimulated him to think and expand his theories.  If a querry arose, it meant that the student who asked it had not been able to get an answer to it, despite the information on the web which could be accessed specifically in less than 1 trillisecond.  Naturally, he would be forced to think and evolve to a higher level of awareness.

“Don’t you think that mankind chose the path of evolution and information while deliberately sacrificing creativity?”

“No.  On the contrary, very few people opted for the technology at first due to the apprehensions that are always associated with new inventions.  But as more and more people realized the benefits of a quality life, the transformation was a smooth and natural progression.

“But what about the fall in the standards of creativity?  Most people feel that we haven’t produced a work of art in the last, I don’t know how many centuries.”

“Yes, admittedly the output from those creative machines that juggle words and images to construct completely new works in the form of images and stories from a previous data base, lack the previous depths but we are working with the algorithms to make them more interesting and innovative…”

“The talk of new algorithms is 200 years old now….”

“Yes.  Looks a long time in absolute terms, but relative to man’s life its nanonuts!”

Several screens on helmets of the students flashed LOL that meant lots of laughter.  Webmen expressed supposed feeling with words!  By replacing peanuts with nanonuts he had evoked a humorous response.

“With mega tera hertz of computing power, the delay is still too much….”

“All science is like that. It sometimes wanders in the wrong direction and gets bogged down.  Then suddenly there is a flash of inspiration and the problem gets solved.  I am optimistic that our Neno Think Tanks will surpass Mr. Shakespeare and William Blake in the near future, in terms of literary effort.  They will also beat Mr. Picasso and company very soon.  Like their names, their works would soon become outdated.”

LOL, went the screens.

Another hand went up.  manav.stu was the most brilliant of them.

“If we are able to re-circulate xytelol through the human heart, will our generation reinstall those hearts in us, back again, to compensate for what we miss at the cost of taking a step higher in the evolution ladder?”

“Some people are trying, but I don’t think we will go as far as to switch on the cell differentiation mechanism, clone the several hearts we have preserved and put them back into people.  Don’t forget that some of us are settled in out back galaxies that will take years to reach.  And who knows what that might do to age spans?”

“But if everything was in order?” manav.stu persisted.  He was a space pilot who was catching up on biology to increase his knowledge base as many adults were doing in the classroom.

“I don’t know.  We have overcome the emotional confusions that pestered the metropolitan man.  He was a love sick, sentimental human being who was confused most of his life.  His heart and brain pulled him to two different places.  I like the alignment that we have today and the clarity of purpose.  If you ask me, I would not like to undo the good we have achieved.  A lot of people think like me and the minority that still conducts that research about channeling the heart back into webbeings, really in all practical terms, has no future.”

When the class ended, sykrishnan.edu picked his Nene Think Tank and left the lecture hall, satisfied that the lecture had gone well.  He sighed as he thought of the next thing on his agenda.  It was time to go to the clinic and make that important decision regarding the fate of syradha.edu, the mathematics professor who had been kept in confinement because of her strange behaviour.

*     *      *

“No success, I am afraid,” the doctor observed.  They had not been able to bring her out of her hibernation mode.  “I think she is deliberately resisting our attempts.  Every once in a while we get such incidents of people who lose interest in life.”

“You tried another chip replacement?”  sykrishnan.edu asked.

“Yes, but it never works.  The chips merely assist functioning by enhancing processing power.  The desire to live, has to come from within.”

“Terminate her,” sykrishnan.edu uttered the order they had been expecting.

“Do you wish to clone her?”

“No.  Just put her to death.”

Ten minutes later he got the call he had been expecting – his wife had been terminated.

Outside the campus, he pressed a few buttons on the console of his wrist and sent an application for a partner.  He needed one because his 200 year relationship with his wife syradha.edu had ended.

*     *      *

A month later, as he turned his car towards the highway, he saw a man dash for cover.  Losers like those vagabonds routinely hid in places like these, where the last of the remaining trees and shrubs still survived.  It had been a long time he had seen a vagabond.

Just a few trees and greenery had been allowed to remain, even though webbeings no longer depended upon them for oxygen or for their food.  Xytelol and a bloodless webman had eliminated the need for oxygen.  Food came from cloning animals, for their meat.  They were even developing the option to clone one’s own organs for eventual consumption in a bid to be completely self-sufficient in laboratories.

He dialed 0101 for webpolice.

Within three minutes, they arrived on their supersonic hovercrafts.

He reported the sighting.

“Hop in,” the duty officer offered.  “This is going to be fun.”

*     *      *

They located him easily on the radars.  He appeared as a thermal image, that moved with a hopelessly slow speed.

“Got him!” The officer remarked.

The thermal image became real in less than a minute.

Ahead, from the hovercraft, he saw the man running.  Knowing he was cornered, he had discarded his cover in an attempt to run as fast as possible.

Abruptly, he stopped and raised his hands frantically, in a gesture of surrender.

The officer zoomed his cam.  The face of the terror stricken man zeroed on the screen.  Shaggy beard, hounded look – but unmistakably prof steve.edu!  The identity match made by the Nene, flashed the confirmation.  Steve.edu –  the man who vehemently asked the scientific community to seriously rethink about giving back to mankind, the gift from God that they had discarded – the human heart!

Incredibly, from the corner of his eye, sykrishnan.edu saw the officer draw his laser from the side panels.

“No!” he screamed and lounged at the officer.  The laser beam missed the target and steve.edu began to run in a zig zag pattern, clearly to duck the next beam.

“He is surrendering, cant you see that?  Why did you use the laser?”

“Orders from above.  He is dangerous.  Has to be eliminated.  Don’t obstruct me from conducting my duty.”  Anger! Anger! His helmet screen flashed the words!

“There is no logic in eliminating a man ready to surrender.  Besides he is an eccentric but widely respected scientist…”

“Then you have got to go too.”

Fortunately for him, he was able to locate the other laser on his side.  He acted quickly and ducked before the beam from the officer flew harmlessly, inches above his head.

The man didn’t get a second chance.  Before he could pull his trigger, the beam from sykrishnan.edu’s gun burnt him instantaneously.  He pressed the emergency button and the hover craft stopped.  He took the driver seat and followed the professor.

“It’s alright, you are safe,” he said as he closed in on the man who had been his favourite mentor, two hundred years ago.

“Oh its krish!”  steve.edu shouted with joy.

“He tried to kill you and when I objected, he tried to kill me too,” sykrishnan.edu said pointing to the carbon debris inside the hovercraft.  “Now we are both on the same side of the law.”

steve.edu hopped in.

“If I am not wrong, they will be backing up very fast.  Move over there,” he suggested.

They got down to a spot.

“Now let’s leave the hovercraft on its auto mode. At its speed, it will lead our quarry away from us as far as possible and when they discover it’s location, it will have no relevance to our hideout.”

“Brilliant,” sykrishnan.edu grinned.

“Now let us go down.”

steve.edu uprooted a shrub to uncover a hole in the ground just enough for him to squeeze in it.  Then he was gone.  sykrishnan.edu looked at the hole uncertainly.

“Come on, quick.  Don’t waste time.  But pull back that shrub as you enter.”

He did as he was told.

The tunnel was dark for sometime and then he could see light.

At the far end of the tunnel, he saw what was a huge laboratory.  And he could see at least fifty scientists working there.

“What is this?” sykrishnan.edu gasped.  “You have an undercover operation here.  So may be the authorities were right after all, in trying to eliminate you.”

“It is a long story.  But before you make any judgments follow me.”

steve.edu led him to another huge hall.  Adorning the walls were giant paintings and their beauty took his breath away.

On the side walls were shelves.

“Pick any notebook and read.”

He picked one at random. There were poems and prose of extraordinary construction, each of them exotic in construction and brilliant.

He looked up to see the professor.

“You have found the algorithm.”

“No.  I have found the heart!”

“What do you mean?”

“I have found a way to transplant the human heart into the webman and made him complete.”

“But that would mean having blood back into our lives, the need for plants and a short life span…” sykrishnan.edu objected.

“A price many of us here are willing to pay, in exchange for the beauty that has disappeared from our lives.  We have an alternative community down here and in two planets in far away galaxies.  Life has already begun there.  We have love, creativity and emotions, instead of logic, objectivity and lack of sensitivity.  We have children in our lives, instead of cold and calculating adults.  We are what we should be, alive and full of life and not just a machine.”

“This is so confusing.  The scientific community believes…”

“You just saw the power of the heart.  Those paintings and verses are outputs of ordinary people like you and me.  You are a scientist too.  What would you like to believe in? Mere theories or proof?”

“Prove me you have a heart.”

One by one, steve.edu and ten other people stood besides a holographic MRI and the image of their pounding heart, throbbing and alive was projected in 3D.  From lecture hall to reality, he was witnessing the rebirth of the heart.

“What are those scientists doing now that you have achieved success?”

“Trying to fight disease causing bacteria and virus.  We are using the fruits of our evolution to combat the threat that blood filled webman would inevitably face.  We have found several cures but not all.”

“What happens to me?”

“You would have been dead but for your reflexes and will be hunted by webpolice like me until you are eliminated.  You have a choice though….”

*     *      *

One month later, he looked out of the windows of the spacecraft Noah, that was leaving the planet, like a dream.

They were heading to Uranus.  Fifty six people, men and women.  Pairs.  So that there would be more life and more like minded people inhabiting the Universe.  The prototypes of development, of an alien race.  Complete with all the animals and plants.  No wonder it had the biblical reference to Noah.

He felt odd to be the off shoot of the human race.  Human beings stood at a crossroad where they were splitting into two races – the webmen and the refurbished cosmopolitan man.  One of them was only logic and superstrength and with a formidable lifespan while the other had logic tempered with creativity, but a limited lifespan.  Would there be an Armageddon in the near future, between the two races or would they coexist?  Time alone would tell.

He would never have chosen this unsure, insecure life, if that officer had not tried to kill him.  He was a reluctant convert.  But everyone else had made a careful choice.  Their decision surprised him.

He reached for his chest and felt the strange sensation of the heart that pumped inside.

*     *      *

His wife, syradha.edu came close to him and grasped his hands in a reassuring way.

He had been shocked when he discovered that she had long been a part of the community.  What they had eliminated at the clinic, had been her clone.

She had chosen this way of life voluntarily after she had read and heard about the work of steve.edu.  She had opted to leave the mainstream stealthily.

Her touch tingled his body like he had never felt before and his heart beat faster.

Was it love?

She looked at him and smiled.  “You have to master a new language.  A language of the heart, professor.  It won’t take long because it is simple and spontaneous.  With you 200 plus IQ you will pick it up very fast.”

He hoped she was right and clasped her hand tightly and looked at the bewitching magic of the distant stars, planets and space with awe.

He felt oneness with the Universe.  He felt a part of life.  Not a cold, isolated and calculating machine without emotions.

He looked forward to starting all over and again.